More connected, and more joy, too

June 1, 2020 - 12:00am -- Living City

More connected, and more joy, too
A husband and wife welcome opportunities to help their neighbors in the Covid-19 situation

My husband and I live in Watertown, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. I work as a graphic designer for the state, and Bob is a senior software engineer at Harvard University. As a couple, we are part of a small, local community of the Focolare that tries to enkindle, through our daily practice of mutual love, the presence of God among us.

One night, a dear friend texted on our local group, asking for help with a serious situation about a coworker. Our friend is the director of a nonprofit that benefits the homeless. One of the home health aides in her nonprofit was living with another housemate who had fallen ill. For safety, this coworker was sleeping in her car out of love for her patients. Her situation was heartbreaking, as home health aides are not paid well to begin with, and this woman was now further limited.

In our group text thread, one friend suggested contacting our governor for help. I dovetailed with her idea and sat down with Bob to compose an email to the governor, our local state senator, and representative.

We wrote that we had learned of a terrible situation of one local home health aide. We asked that such essential personnel, working on the frontlines, be included in receiving hazard pay. We felt that although we couldn’t take this worker into our home, we could at least give voice to her needs.

The next day, I received a prompt reply from my state senator saying: “We are definitely trying to move more people into the hazard pay category. Home healthcare aides definitely deserve it. Hope we can get this done.”

Through a coworker, I also learned that the director of the Massachusetts Covid-19 Command Center, and close collaborator of the governor, had been speaking about home health aides the very morning after I sent the email.

Bob and I were happy to have written, as an act of love for our friend. While we still await a concrete response to this, our efforts to move this issue forward made us feel more connected to our community, and this gave us joy.

We also try to address other needs in our immediate area. For example, in our neighborhood, we have a friend from the parish who is elderly and does not have a car. We try to bring her paper goods (so hard to find!) and groceries on a regular basis. One day she was so touched by our love, that she exclaimed, “Some people go to church, but you are church!”

On another occasion, this woman gave us a lovely card with $100 tucked inside. Knowing her means, we tried to return it, but she insisted. Bob and I thought of a friend who was struggling, amidst the pandemic. We shared the $100 with her, and she told us: “You gave me the hundredfold. May God give you double in return.” It was a beautiful moment.

Bob’s mother, who is 95, lives close by. We also try to keep her supplied with the hard-to-find paper goods and other groceries. This means that when we get word that a store has paper goods in stock, we drop everything to get them before they sell out.

One day Bob was feeling the nuisance of social distancing, shopping down one-way aisles in the stores, etc. Then we reminded each other that, as committed Christians, we are called to be light for others, to welcome Jesus in them, and to know we are children of a God who loves us immensely.

Bob looked at me with a new twinkle in his eye. It was so beautiful to start again together!

- Lucia Colella-Yantosca and Bob Yantosca

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